The Secret: A Treasure Hunt

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt

Updated Jun 17, 2018 at 04:54PM EDT by 13acab12.

Added Jun 07, 2018 at 03:50PM EDT by 13acab12.

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The Secret (subtitled as The Secret: A Treasure Hunt) is a fantasy novel created by Byron Preiss that was published in fall of 1982. The book, which tells the story of mythical creatures known as the "Fair People," garnered attention due to the contest released alongside the book, where 12 different treasures were hidden across North America and those who find a treasure will be given a prize, all 12 of which resulted in a sum of 12,000 dollars. with each prize costing 1,000 dollars each. As of 2018, 2 of the twelve treasures were found, and the search has been compounded in difficulty due to the passage of time and the untimely passing of Preiss among other factors. Despite the difficulty, a niche community still exists that is devoted to finding the remaining ten treasures.


The Secret tells the story of the Fair People, collectively referring to mythical creatures such as dragons, fairies, and leprechauns that, 300 years ago, inhabited the Old World of Europe and Asia who left their home due to Man and their expanding abode of Civilization. From the Old World, the Fair People discovered and traveled to the New World across the sea, bringing with them their treasures of jewels and gemstones. The Fair People would later vanish by the time Man had expanded across the sea, and with them, the treasures vanished as well, never to be seen again until the Fair People issue the reader a task and a pact to match 12 verses and 12 paintings to find their treasure. The treasures would be the subject of an over 30-year-long hunt that lasts even today.

SCANDIA TARTARY RUSSIA AQUITANE 9 12 The Passage of the Fair People from the Old World to the New Found Land I Elues, Trolls, Grims,8 Korreds, Lutin, Dames 2 Vazily, Leshy, Poieuiki, 3 Dwarves, Witchl Nissen and Tomtro Blanches, Loup Domiuge, Vily, RuskakiCentaurs, Nymphs, Hülchen, Rhine Maidens People O Peace, Trouws, Brounies, Silk 10 Hadas, Duende 11 Foei, Farfarel, Sal uan, Aguane, 5 Sidhe, Leprachouns, 6 Foiries, Pixles, 7 Alven, Kiabauterman 12 Diinn, Perl, Deeus 13 Tree Fir Dogs Hobgoblins, Boggarts nikins, Gnomes Not shoun: Prince Y, Hs Wang Mu, Shin-seen and The treasure now, The story's told Set for eternity In days of old But Marn His numbers quickly grew And so the Fair Folk come to you With their challenge and a pact: To match twelve verses With the sight Of paintings twelve in colorlight. A pair will lead you to a casque A little digging is the task For treasures shining, moonglow, amber Emeralds dark and ruby embers. To find the keys is your reward For Fairy, peace the real accord. A dozen paintings Share the clues Yet Fairy šecrets Come in twos To sing a happy treasure song To have a casque to you belong Wed one picture With one verse For Fair Folk's peace Goodness first.


Preiss had buried the treasures from 1981 to 1982, in various cities around North America, with the locations known only to him. The book had a number of collaborators, such as artist John Jude Palencar, who made the artwork in the book and one of the components for the puzzle. It would eventually be published in fall of 1982 by Bantam Books, and its contest falls under the genre of the armchair treasure hunt, a type of treasure hunt that involves solving puzzles and riddles usually contained in a portable manner, such as a book, to find a treasure in the real world. An early example of this would be Kit Williams' picture book Masquerade (shown below), which involved finding clues hidden in paintings to find an actual prize buried somewhere in the real world.[3]


The Contest

Within the book, alongside the story of the Fair People and their treasures, are 12 different paintings (example shown below, left) and 12 different verses (example shown below, right) that form the main part of the puzzle. Each verse corresponded to a certain painting, and each painting corresponded with a certain place that hinted at where the treasure was located, with the verse acting as a step by step guide as to locating where to dig for the treasure, a ceramic "casque" within a plexiglass box, and within the casque a key that could be redeemed for a precious gemstone worth 1,000 dollars, with the gemstone depending on the location in which the casque was found, if the key was sent to the publisher.

Of all the romance retold Men of tales and tunes Cruel and bold Seen here By eyes of old Stand and listen to the birds Hear the cool, clear song of water Harken to the words Freedom at the birth of a century Or May 1913 Edwin and Edwina named after him Or on the eighth a scene Where law defended Between two arms extended Below the bar that binds Beside the long palm's shadow Embedded in the sand Waits the Fair remuneration White house close at hand.

Online History

Numerous articles have been made on The Secret, ranging from local news to articles on sites like Boingboing[4] and Vice.[5] Two separate posts made on the /r/UnresolvedMysteries subreddit about the book and its contest, garnering more than 200 upvotes (99% upvoted)[1] and 75 upvotes prior to archiving, respectively.[2]

An episode of the TV show Expedition Unknown that focused on the treasure hunt aired on January 17, 2018 on the Travel Channel, showing the host Josh Gates as he travels across the US to find the treasure.

A wiki that centralizes the search and gathers information on where the casques might be located also exists, containing resources, theories, and interpretations of the visual clues in the paintings and the verses.[3]

A podcast about the search, SHHH, The Secret,[8] is also available on iTunes[9] and its official website.


In 1983, a year after the book was published, the first casque was found in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois by teenagers Bob Wrobel, Eric Gasiorowski, and David James. The trio found the casque through the connection of various details in one of the paintings , such as a windmill in the painting bearing a resemblance to the Chicago water tower, a water fairy in the painting bearing a resemblance to the Chicago Art Institute's Spirit of the Great Lakes fountain, and the shape of the state of Illinois hidden as an outline, alongside working out the stanzas in the verse they presumed to be correct. The find was reported on local news from The Chicago Tribune and on WLS TV Chicago.

Chicago Tribune, 8/9/83, Sec. 2, pg. 1 Hunting by the boolk Chicago pals unearth 'Secret treasure By Eric Zorn HEN BYRON PREISS wrote his book The Sccret last year, he was count ing on there being a few more people like Bob Wrobe, Ere Gastorows and David James in this world; people who would throw themselves wholeheartedly into a wildly difficult, nationwide hunt for buried treasure Preiss buried 12 ceramic casks in the far reaches of the 48 states and planted a host of clues to their whereabouts in a Bantam paper back published last fall. He expected the first treasure to be found within 30 days. The months rolled by, and no one cracked any of the puzzles Some 700 people wrote to Preiss at his New York office claíming to have located the treasure None had Then, early in the evening of one of Chicago's hottest summer days, Wrobel, Gastorowski and James took a shovel, the book, a map and a few friends to an obscure corner of Grant Park and completed a six-month search by digging up the first of the ceramic casks. In return for their traval, the suburban teen agers get to keep the cask, valued at more than $500, and il receive an emerald worth approxi mately $1,000. The remainder of the jewels will continue to gather dust in a New York City vault until the casks that go along with them are unearthed The Chicago treasure would still be in the und had not a feature story about The ret" appeared in The Tribune late last year and inspired Wrobel, 19, to buy the book as a hirthday present for James, now 18. The two knew each other from Walther Lutheran High Schoo in Melrose Park and were part of a small circle of friends that played "Dungeons and Dragons," an elaborate fantasy game favored by those with high intelligence and a somewhat obsessive, escapist nature 디 THE HUNT BEGAN for the young men in February when Gasiorowski, 16, the third mem ber of the plucky trio, bought his own copy of the book. They were confronted with a confounding t of clues that at first seemed to make no sense whatsoever The Secet" was an attempt by the author to duplicate he success of "Masquerde a 1979 British book that combined a fairy tale with a Tntune photo by Aon Botoy Eric Gasiorowski [left] and Bob Wrobel used clues in "The Secret" to find a $1,500 treasure in Grant Park. Continued on page a

In 2004, over two decades since the discovery of the first casque, the second casque was found in Cleveland, Ohio's Greek Cultural Garden by Brian Zinn and his friend Andy Abrams, two members of the Quest4Treasure treasure hunting forum. The clues found within the painting included references to Greek mathematicians, the shape of Cleveland's Terminal Tower, and shapes directly taken from the Greek Cultural Garden.

Abrams consults with Zinn on the progress of the hole. "Andy and I are in the same rotisserie baseball league," Zinn says. "It's so funny because he told me, 'You know what I want in return for helping you? I want some of your players." Zinn is still considering that proposal.

In 2005, Byron Preiss was killed in a car accident,[7] and with his death he took along the locations of the remaining ten casques to his grave. From there, Preiss' publishing company went into bankruptcy and the search was mostly called off until 2015, when the book was republished with new contact info and a new publisher saying that the contest will still be upheld.[6]

As of 2018, the casques are still at large, though their locations have been theorized by numerous internet users. The aforementioned wiki has also gathered up a set of locations theorizing where the remaining casques are located (shown below).[3] The search has also been compounded in difficulty due to not just Preiss' death but also in part to the changing appearance of the location's landscapes, natural events such as hurricanes, and the potential legality of digging for the treasure to begin with due to numerous laws and regulations set in place.

Painting Verse Location Status
1 7 San Francisco, California Not Found
2 6 Charleston, South Carolina Not Found
3 11 Roanoke Island, North Carolina Not Found
4 4 Cleveland, Ohio Found in 2004
5 12 Chicago, Illinois Found in 1983
6 9 St. Augustine, Florida Not Found
7 2 New Orleans, Louisiana Not Found
8 1 Houston, Texas Not Found
9 5 Montreal, Quebec, Canada Not Found
10 8 Milwaukee, Wisconsin Not Found
11 3 Boston, Massachusetts Not Found
12 10 New York City, New York Not Found

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